Political Science resources: Research methods & analysis

This page has some sources and ideas for finding information on political science topics within the Research Methods & Analysis learning track. It may be helpful for students in courses such as POL 100, POL 200, POL 201, POL 311, POL 426WQ, and more.

If you need help, please contact Baharak Yousefi, Liaison Librarian at or byousefi@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

     Places to look for information

    Book covers by ISBNs: 9781446206515

    Background sources

    Background sources can be helpful if you are trying to get quick facts or basic information about important ideas, people, events, and more. Some examples in this area include:

    Handbook of data analysis
    Provides access to basic theoretical arguments, practical quantitative techniques, and methodologies in social science research.

    Encyclopedia of survey research methods
    Covers all major facets of survey research methodology, from selecting the sample design and the sampling frame, designing and pretesting the questionnaire, data collection, and data coding, to the thorny issues surrounding diminishing response rates, confidentiality, privacy, informed consent and other ethical issues, data weighting, and data analyses.

    The SAGE handbook of public opinion research
    Provides access to articles on what public opinion is, what role it has in a society, how it changes and by what it is affected, how it can be measured, and what impact it has.

    The Routledge handbook to referendums and direct democracy
    Provides access to articles on direct democracy and referendums throughout the world including their history, use, democratic underpinnings, participation, trust, whether they produce good policies, the impact of new technology, and their regulation. Specific topics include recall, citizen-juries, and initiative and legislative petitions.

    Data journalism and the regeneration of news
    Investigates how data journalism has evolved and is evolving in the digitized world of the 21st century. Explores data journalism as a site for new networks, as a blending of journalism, programming and coding, and tools and technologies, as well as a site for emergent norms, methods, and epistemologies such as collaboration and computational thinking.

    Handbook of research on politics in the computer age
    This book examines the role of technology and the internet in political campaigning, political messaging, and political activism, including chapters on political and public policy engineering, social media, super PACs, fake news and hate speech, digital campaigning, and digital activism.

    Routledge handbook of political management [print]
    Examines political consulting and campaign management, including chapters on consulting in the US and the world, on lobbying and advocacy work, the impact of new technology and new media, campaign costs, ideology and propaganda, ethics, marketing, and persuasion.

    To look for information from other background sources, search for your terms in the Library Catalogue and select 'Reference Entries' from the Resource Type filter on the left side of the results. You can also explore the general Background reference sources page and the Background information page for Political Science.

      Article databases

      Databases are collections of information that often deal with a specific topic or type of resource and can include academic articles, newspaper articles, reports, images, and more. Searching in databases can give you more focused sets of results, though you may notice some overlap with the Library Catalogue. Here are some suggested databases for this area:

      SAGE Research Methods Online
      Provides access to a wide variety of sources (including ebooks, articles, reference sources, and videos) on research methods (quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods) across the social and behavioural sciences. You can narrow your search by mousing-over the Browse link at the top of the page and selecting the "Political Science and International Studies" discipline, then limiting the resources by content type on the right side menu (e.g. "Journal Articles").

      SAGE Research Methods Cases
      Provides access to case studies of research methods applied to real research projects. Researchers explain how they designed their research project, why they chose a particular research method, how they overcame problems, and what they might have done differently in hindsight. Cases cover research methods such as focus groups, data collection, ethnography, semi-structured interviews, content analysis, grounded theory, action research, and more.

      To look for information from other databases, you can explore a broader selection of databases in the Books + articles page for Political Science, or look at the full list of Political Science databases. Depending on your topic, you might also want to check databases for other fields, such as Policy Analysis, Public Policy, and Statistics & Actuarial Science. To find these, go to the main Article databases pages and pick the field you want from the dropdown menu in the first box.

      Additional sources

      Public Policy information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to graduate students of Public Policy who are learning about social policy, environmental policy, Indigenous policy, health policy, and issues such as sustainability, regulations, globalization, gender, and cost-benefit analysis.

      Data and statistics (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides links to and information about data and statistical resources, including how to locate, acquire, and cite these resources.

      Statisics & Actuarial Science information resources (SFU Research Guide)
      Provides information and links to students of Statistics & Actuarial Studies who are learning about mathematical problem solving, complex and copious data generation, and financial problem solving.


       Ways to look for academic sources

      Book covers by ISBNs: 9781799803782

      This section outlines some tips and strategies you can use when searching for information in academic sources. To learn more or to get more search ideas, see the Library Catalogue search guide or the general Help pages.

      Generating search terms

      To come up with terms that you can use to start searching, think about the topic or title of your project and decide on the most important words. For example:

      • The role of social data in shaping Canadian election campaigns.

      Next, brainstorm synonyms, related terms or ideas, and alternate spellings (if relevant) for each of your key concepts (consider broader and more specific terms):

      • social data = Big Data, social indicators, data mining, data brokerage, social networks, social media, SM, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
      • election campaigns = elections, political campaigns, internet marketing, Cambridge Analytica, etc.
      • Canadian = Canada, federal, provincial, territorial, Ontario, British Columbia, etc.

      As you search, try different combinations of these words, and look for other words that may also describe your topic. You may find that your results will change significantly based on which words you use.

      Also keep in mind that the words used to describe something may have changed over time. You can also get more ideas for search terms from background sources or articles on your topic.

      When searching the Library Catalogue and most databases, you can use the filters on the left side of your search results to narrow your results. Consider narrowing by resource type (e.g. book), date published, and more. Narrowing by date can be especially helpful for finding primary sources from a certain year or era.

      Using operators like AND, OR, asterisk (*), and quotation marks (" ") with your search terms can also help you focus your search and get different combinations of results:

      • Searching for  elections AND Canada will connect these different ideas and show results that contain both of them anywhere in the text.
      • Searching for  Canada OR Ontario will connect these related words and show results that contain either of them.
      • Searching for Canad* will search Canada, Canadian, Canadians, etc.
      • Searching for "social data" will only show results where these two words appear together in this order.

      You can also use some of these techniques in general web searches. For more examples, see the Library Catalogue search guide to power searching.

      Using subject headings

      Once you have found a book or article that works for you, you can sometimes use the subject headings for that item to find similar materials. Subject headings are specific phrases that are assigned to items (a bit like hashtags in social media). Searching with subject headings can often give more relevant results than searching with keywords.

      You can find and click on subject headings in the records for many items. You can also search for subject headings using the Advanced Search in the Library Catalogue and in many databases. Here are a few examples of subject heading searches for this area: